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MRG-TV-Multitasking-by-Tech-Adoption-Category-Nov2013Much has been made of the tendency of TV viewers to multitask – particularly those with a smartphone or tablet in hand (although multitasking doesn’t always involve one of those devices). While some have seen this trend as potentially beneficial to the industry, others worry that it distracts viewers from programs and ads. Either way, the preponderance of research indicates that multi-screening behavior most often involves activities unrelated to the content being seen on TV. Recent data from the Multimedia Research Group (MRG), though, suggests that dual-screeners are starting to engage more in TV-related activities.

According to the MRG data, 60% of smartphone and tablet owners surveyed during Q3 said they used their mobile device while watching TV, up from 52% in Q1. The majority of that growth came from device owners who claimed to frequently multitask related to the TV program they were watching, with the percentage of respondents claiming that to be the case growing from 16% in Q1 to 21% in Q3. That group is still outnumbered by those classifying their multitasking as being unrelated to the TV program they’re watching (39% of respondents in Q3, up from 36% in Q1), but a separate breakdown of respondents may provide an indicator that this might be the start of more related multitasking.

The survey also broke respondents down into 3 groups by technology adoption attitudes: leading edge adopters; early adopters; and proven tech (those who typically wait until a technology is proven to work well).

Among the leading edge group, respondents were as likely in Q3 to say they multitasked with activities related as unrelated to TV (each at 38% of respondents). That marks a change from just 6 months earlier, when this group was significantly more likely to be multitasking with unrelated (39%) than related (32%) activities.

Early adopters are also trending towards more TV-related multitasking, with 27% reporting this to be the case in Q3, up from 23% in Q1. Early adopters remain much more likely to be multitasking with unrelating activities, though.

Finally, the proven tech group is the least likely to be multitasking at all – and when multitasking, also the least likely to be engaging in related activities.

If leading edge respondents can serve as a leading indicator of technology habits – then it’s reasonable to suggest that respondents who belong in the early adopter and proven tech groups will also begin to multitask with activities more related to the content they’re watching.

One last indicator that the trends favor related content: the youngest device owners are the most likely to multitask with related content. Some 37% of those aged 18-24 say they multitask often, using their devices for activities sometimes related to what they are watching on TV. By comparison, 43% claimed to use their device for unrelated activities. That 6% point gap was the smallest of any age group.

About the Data: The data is derived from a survey of 748 smartphone and tablet owners in Q3 and 703 in Q1.

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